Delta tightens leash of restrictions for service animals on flights

(WFLA) — After incidents of urination and biting, Delta is setting new standards for service animals who fly on their aircrafts.

Photo courtesy of Anne Goyer

Delta’s new rules are aimed at two categories: service animals, which receive specific training to help blind or disabled passengers; and so-called emotional-support animals, which require no training at all. Both fly for free and are not required to be caged during the flight.

Here are the new procedures and updated requirements from Delta.

  • Show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance
  • Have a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional 48 hours in advance (this was already a requirement)
  • Have signed Confirmation of Animal Training form to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com 48 hours in advance

“This comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.These measures are intended to help ensure that those customers traveling with a trained service or support animal will no longer be at risk of untrained pets attacking their working animal, as has previously been reported,” the company said in a release.

Airline officials said they’ve seen an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, which included animals using the bathroom on the plane and biting other people.

Kerry Konefal flew with her service dog Jax to visit her daughter in Tampa this weekend and claims she’s never had a problem with other pets on the plane.

“I flew at Christmas time and there were a large amount of dogs. I didn’t see any other type of farm animals, no cats, just dogs and they were all really well behaved,” she said.

But other passengers, like Mark Prince, would disagree.

“For the average person that brings their animal, I think it’s somewhat of a nuisance. It’s not just because of my inconvenience, it’s just that animals have a certain place and people here traveling have a certain place and I don’t know that they need to be together sometimes,” Prince said.

When 8 On Your Side first investigated the problem, travelers complained flights were starting to look more like zoos. We learned pigs, turkeys, cats, squirrels and monkeys were being registered as emotional support animals. Officials told us some passengers have been abusing the system by registering their animals as emotional support animals in order for the animals to fly for free.

The new rules are due to a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.

“The new requirements support Delta’s top priority of ensuring safety for its customers, employees and trained service and support animals, while supporting the rights of customers with legitimate needs, such as disabled veterans, to travel with trained animals,” the airline said.

Delta carries around 700 support animals every day— nearly 250,000 annually.  To put this into perspective, more than 180 million people fly Delta annually.

Each day, customers try to fly with animals ranging from comfort turkeys to gliding possums known as sugar gliders and snakes, spiders and more, however, Delta said it does not accept exotic or unusual service animals.

Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.

“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.”

Additional information on types of accepted animals and other questions related to traveling with service and support animals is available here.

The new rules will go into effect on March 1, 2018.

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